CAUGHT BY THE CAMERA
anything like Eugene von Guerard’s scrupulous attention to geological form. His rocks and mountains are imposing silhouettes, but they are not much more than that; they have no spine, little inner form. And at the same time his treatment of sky, water and clouds is ultimately facile: light effects are more often obvious than subtle, and the surface of the broad expanses of water of which he is so fond frequently have a disagreeably bland and almost airbrushed quality.
Piguenit shares some of these faults with Nicholas Chevalier, but the cases are not exactly the same. Chevalier can be obvious to the point of vulgarity, revelling in showy effects of light and chocolate-boxy compositions designed to impress an undiscriminating public. Although Piguenit is also making pictures that are capable of appealing to a rather unsophisticated taste — while I was there several visitors glanced at the show for a distressingly short minute or so, ritually observing that the pictures were beautiful, before instantly departing — he is clearly not vulgar but rather, if anything, overly sensitive and fairly passive in his response to picturesque detail.
But painting is not just a matter of receptivity and sensibility; it also requires the decisive, assertive imposition of order that is the essence of composition. Ultimately, indeed, composition must precede observation — that is, one must have an idea of what kind of a thing a picture is before one begins to look at the world and set down its appearances, just as one must have an idea of what a story is, or what the composition of a piece of music entails.
Of course, Piguenit was not completely without ideas about the nature of pictures, but partly because he was not properly taught within a tradition, he did not assimilate a deeper understanding of the nature of land-